4 Mindset Shifts for Greater Peace & Productivity

Can we change and move forward? Sometimes it feels like we can’t change. We feel stuck. We feel like our emotions just are what they are. However, if there is one thing that the great teachers of the world agree on, it is this: people can change. We are not stuck in our current ways of looking at things. We are not stuck doing the same old thing. Humans have a capacity for change.

This question is particularly poignant in times of great stress in the international order like we are facing right now. In such cases, it’s easy to let our anxiety get the best of us. We may not be aware of it. What can help us maintain peace and productivity in the midst of the storm?

I have found some help for this in the writing of some ancient philosophers known as the Stoics. The Stoics weren’t perfect, but they wrote simply and clearly about some of the best of the ancient wisdom for living well.

They key to the whole process of change is this. The locus of change is not outside us. It is inside us. It is our judgments, how we evaluate things, that determine how we will live. How we think about sickness or death, for example, will determine how we respond to it. For example, the Stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius says, “But I unless I think that what has happened is an evil, am not injured. And it is in my power not to think so” (Meditations, 7.14). He goes on to say: “If you are pained about any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it” (ibid., 8.47). It is how we think that determines whether or not something is bad or not. Of course, this is not about what we think at one particular moment. This is about our pattern of thinking. “Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind, for the soul is dyed by the thoughts” (ibid., 5.16). So, if we are going to be what we were created for, we will have to change our mindset.

What are these mindset shifts that can especially help us change for the better? Here I would like to set forth some general mindset shifts that can help us achieve the human telos, goal, or purpose. These mindset shifts are to trust the providence of God, focus on what is under your power, find joy in being human, and focus on living today.

First, trust the providence of God. Don’t just see the events as bad things that happen to you or things that are random. Instead, see them as coming from the good government of God. The philosopher Epictetus says that we should agree with the providence of God and not want anything other than what God’s government brings us. If someone leaves us, “Don’t wish at any price that he should continue to live with you, don’t wish that you’ll be able to remain in Corinth, and, in a word, don’t wish for anything other than what God wishes” (Discourses, 2.17). Seneca made it his habit when things went contrary to his desires not only to recognize that God wanted something different but to assent to what God wanted as the best decision. “‘Heaven decreed it otherwise!’ Nay rather, to adopt a phrase which is braver and nearer the truth—one on which you may more safely prop your spirit—say, to yourself, whenever things turn out contrary to your expectation: ‘Heaven decreed better!’” (Letter XCVIII). See everything as the result of the providence of God, and you will be able to live a life of virtue and peace. Continue reading “4 Mindset Shifts for Greater Peace & Productivity”

A Pastor Perspective on the Ukraine Crisis

I was on a call with someone not from our church, and the wife of this man was in the car. She said, “What’s your Pastor’s perspective on what’s going on in Ukraine?”

I replied jokingly, “You don’t want my geo-political analysis or thoughts on the military tactics of the respective armies?”

She insisted that she wanted to hear my “Pastor” thoughts, so here’s the substance of what I came up with.

First, there are people who are hurting. A lot of innocent people are getting killed, injured, and displaced because of this war. Our church decided to take up an offering for our denomination’s efforts to help these people. If you want to do so, you can go here.

Second, it is legitimate to fight in defense of one’s homeland. Christian thought through the ages has tried to work out a “just war theory” in light of Scripture and reason. This is clearly one of those instances.

Our own leaders need great wisdom on how to help these efforts without escalating things unnecessarily. The Bible recommends that we raise “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority . . .” We need to pray for the leaders of all the countries involved that they will have wisdom and act justly.

Third, as Reinhold Niebuhr put it, we should be “in the battle and above it.” We have to fight battles in this world and so have to be “in the battle.” However, we also sometimes need to be “above the battle.” This means, we recognize our common need for grace and forgiveness on all sides, the imperfection of even the most just causes, and the sense of tragedy that we are taken up in these sorts of things at all. Such crises require a humble boldness.

Fourth, we recognize that God is in control. Nations have fought and battled before, but God will always have the last word. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” As a result, we can declare with confidence, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10–11). We need to process our anxiety over these events before the Lord so that we may find the peace He has for us even in the most difficult situations.

Fifth, we look forward to the day when wars will cease and all these things will come to an end. I am preaching this week on Jesus’ arrest. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples asked, “Shall we strike with our swords?” Then, one of them cut the high priest’s servant’s ear. Jesus told them to stop, and he touched the servant’s ear and healed it. This reminded me that though people strike with swords and cause real damage, Jesus will come with His touch to heal. This is a promise for this world and the world to come.


Photo by Gleb Albovsky on Unsplash

I Was Scared in March 2020. Here’s What Happened and What I Learned.

There is no question that I was scared in March 2020.

As Covid-19 began to spread out over the world, I was scared of the suffering and dying that could take place from this awful virus. I heard the reports from Italy and saw how quickly it could take over a community. What would happen if, or probably when, it came here? I thought.

I was scared at would happen to our economy. As March went on and people began to stay home, what would it mean for our way of life? Would it lead us to a Great Depression? A friend told me it was unclear what was going to happen to our banking system because nothing like this had ever happened. So, what was going to happen?

I was scared for our communities. As Covid-19 began to spread, the leaders in our church made certain decisions that we believed would protect our community. Not everyone agreed. Covid-19 became a significant source of controversy and got entangled in our political polarization. This was an issue that cut through people on the conservative side of the spectrum. What would be the result? I wondered. Would this tear our church and other churches apart? Continue reading “I Was Scared in March 2020. Here’s What Happened and What I Learned.”

Karen & the Subtlety of Pride

According to Wikipedia, the pejorative name “Karen” means, “a woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is appropriate or necessary.” It is somewhat ironic that one of the best analyses I have found of Karens is from a woman named Karen.

Dr. Karen Horney (September 16, 1885–December 4, 1952) was a psychoanalyst. She was one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis. This is especially remarkable in that this field was dominated by men at the time.

What Dr. Karen noticed was that low self-esteem and self-loathing were not what they seemed to be. She asked, why do people have such low self-esteem? She suggests it begins with an idealized image of oneself: “Gradually and unconsciously, the imagination sets to work and creates in his mind an idealized image of himself. In this process he endows himself with unlimited powers and with exalted faculties: he becomes a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god” (Neurosis & Human Growth, 22). Continue reading “Karen & the Subtlety of Pride”

In the Bible, Anxiety Is the Occasion of Sin

In the Bible, anxiety is the occasion for sin. Anxiety is not in itself sin, but it is the occasion that tempts us to sin. Thus, there is nothing wrong with seeing a threat, difficulty, or challenge. The question is, what do we do with it?

I believe that this is a true analysis of sin in our life based on several considerations. I was surprised, though, at how explicit this is in the Bible as I reviewed its various stories of sin. Here are just a few examples that demonstrate the connection between anxiety and sin. Continue reading “In the Bible, Anxiety Is the Occasion of Sin”